Imagine choosing a hospital because they advertise making a woman’s natural birth experience empowering–and then having a traumatic and debilitating experience that forever changes your life for the worse. Well, sadly, that’s what happened to Caroline Malatesta. Her experience left her with PTSD and a painful, permanent physical injury.
Malatesta was pregnant with her fourth child when she made the decision to give birth at Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, because the hospital claimed to specialize in natural births. Her first three births were typical, medicated deliveries. Of course, Malatesta interviewed a doctor at the hospital to discuss what she wanted, which included being in labor in any position.
However, when Malatesta when into labor in March, her experience was anything but what she previously discussed. When she went into her birthing room, the nurse told her she had to go to the bathroom right away, because she couldn’t “get out of the bed for maybe for the rest of labor.” Malatesta protested, stating:
“[I] told her that my doctor said I’d have wireless monitoring and that I would be able to be mobile, but the nurse said my doctor wasn’t on call. From that point on, it became a back-and-forth of ‘But my doctor said I could’ and ‘But you don’t get to.’ The nurse treated me like a disobedient child!
I was resisting, but at the same time, I was trying to accommodate because you’re vulnerable, you’re in labor. I do get into the bed, I do put on a gown (even though the hospital advertised you could wear your own clothes), I do get on my back, even though it was very painful.
I kept asking, ‘Why? Why?’ but the nurse wasn’t answering me. She ignored me, acting almost annoyed with me. As we went back and forth — me asking questions and telling her this was more painful for me, and her getting increasingly irritated — it became very clear that this wasn’t about health or safety. It was a power struggle.”
While all of this was happening, Malatesta’s water broke and her baby’s head started crowning–but instead of letting her choose whatever position she wanted to be in, the nurse physically forced her on her back. Even worse, one of the nurses literally held her baby’s head into her vagina to prevent him from being delivered–which is completely insane. Malatesta described how traumatic the experience was:
“The nurse pulled my wrist out from under me and flipped me over on to my back! Then another nurse held my baby’s head into my vagina to prevent him from being delivered. The nurses were holding me down, and I was struggling — really struggling. I grabbed the side of the bed, and at one point, I even put my foot up against the nurse’s shoulder and face to try and get leverage to flip back over, but was unsuccessful.”
This went on for about six minutes, while her husband watched in shock and confusion (since he assumed something must have been wrong). Malatesta ended up suffering a permanent injury called pudendal neuralgia–a debilitating nerve condition that means she is often in pain and hasn’t been able to have sex since.
According to Malatesta, she and her husband had to move in with her parents to get help with her kids. Luckily, her son, Jack, was born without any problems, however.
After trying to settle the matter with the hospital, Malatesta ended up having to go to court because the hospital administration were unresponsive. Two years later, Malatesta won the lawsuit and was awarded $16 million for her injuries. Sadly, however, the damage was already done.
While Malatesta has gotten validation over the case, nothing compares to not living with endless, debilitating pain.